2010 Blogthology

This page has proved almost a ready-made Blogthology for what has been a hard and compartmented year. First having Robin Rachel and Star stuck in Poland, then their wedding, followed by the usual busy summer with an election, bees, gardens, accident to wrist, poems, publications, Poetry Scotlands and the Callander Poetry Weekend. Winter came early and is hard so far, but there is a lot to look back on.


First photo: December with my brothers and sisters. The 5 of us met in London, with 3 partners, and all seven children with six partners and five grandchildren, as time marches on.

I can't get into the middle of this page to revise it - the page is too long. I've inserted a marker, or you can stop when you feel like it. I completed the poem sequence Andersons Piano, about the Cruachan derailment, and a poem from it has been published. I will also be publishing A Burrell Tapestry as a diehard pamphlet early next year.

Wishing a fabulous 2011 to every one of my kind readers.

BINDERY - and the BENCH - where I am saying it is too cold to work this week. There's a stove but we had an issue with dust from it last year, still unresolved. Below WINTER FIRES early December. And a snap from my visit to London, where a great time was had by all,  though I am now trying to forget about the role of oldest member of the family that I played there.

On a snowbound day, when I had decided against a fairly long journey myself on the grounds of road conditions, and was accordingly  feeling distinctly snowbound, Dale and Stephen said they would like to go out and find a pub with a roaring fire. We suggested the Kingshouse Balquhidder and they called here on the way. Here are the fires.

Dale also took photos of the winter garden and our shop and bindery, other views of the Kingshouse, and various countryside pictures of their snowy journey. Some of these will soon be on my facebook photo files, with Dale's permission. Below, the "Snow Road" to Callander

No internet, no trade, November
(to paraphrase Hood of the puns).

   I had a week without internet because the computer packed in, after four years maybe five. I got it reset for £29.95 and am now back online but I have a number of outstanding issues of connectability. I-player wont work, facebook will only work on IE, MrSite will only work on Firefox. Norton wants me to renew AND re-sign.
   So, I am back, having survived my week away,  even enjoyed it, but not to the extent I would wish to return to the simple rustic life of the past, when the countryside's beauties were inextricably tied with inability to obtain any goods, join in any activities or find out what else was going on in the world beyond  ones village bounds.

   Additionally it rained solidly all week. The river rose, dangerous puddles appeared in the roads, the cats became bored and stroppy and the customers for the most part stayed in the dry of their homes. You couldnt blame them.
   However I made some progress with my poetry, finishing my tantalising Cruachan sequence, which entailed discovering what it was about and how long it wanted to be, etc, then I went back to the Burrell poems, tidied them up (it was alarming how well they tidied up, what with splitting longer poems into two shorter ones, and removing deliberate repeat lines, and changing the order of the last poems so the right poem came at the end) and began to prepare them for book publication.
   Which leaves me with the Cruachan project to possibly hawk around - I have one poem from it just published in Causeway (Aberdeen), and I have also sent out some others, for it is amenable to magazine publication in parts. I look forward to seeing the single poem in print in a day or two, for Aberdeen are just sending the magazines out. It is a thirty-fourth part of the whole, a jigsaw piece to me, but it will be great to see it performing as a page poem. [November 6]



 The Colours of Nature

Autumn was less advanced when this pic was taken by Colin Smith of the cairn at the top of Callander Crags. The terrain changes abruptly there to a high heather moor.

Now in October, trees on the crags leading up to this point are every colour from green through yellow orange red to brown. They look marvellous through my window latticed with canna plants, which give the whole thing a foreground and middle ground to emphasise the backdrop.


More colour from Dominique's wonderful pictures of Scotland, mostly taken on a week in Glencoe very recently. He is a professional photographer who has moved from France to live in Glasgow, and you may not use these pics without  permission. (He will find out if you do -- it is fairly easy to check the internet for particular pictures if you know how to go about it. But you can still link to them as I have done.)

The canna plants came from Sheila at Dunblane for £3 each, which counts as a gift - they are huge healthy ones and one is going to flower. They have additional shoots and will make half a dozen good plants in the garden next summer.


A car for the autumn

Beautiful autumn weather, the bluest skies and clear, and I have begun tidying up the garden for winter.
Have another car, a Ford Focus estate, acquired at a lethal auction - the used car prices have gone up a great deal. It's great to be back on the road even though I have missed most of the summer light with my broken wrist, now mended sufficiently to drive this heavy brute of a car. After the stop-gap Renault Clio it is large, roomy, and satisfactory. And it's MOT'd for twelve months.

We went to Edinburgh in it and saw the family, also had a great gossip with Eric while handing over the accounts. We also went back to Kinbuck auction. The car has spent time in Canterbury and Stornoway. Car sales firms dont half move cars around. On the first trial run along the side of Loch Earn, there was full moonlight on the loch but also a battery light in the dashboard, so we hastened home and recharged the battery. Thereafter, all was well.

The bees are still busy. Have been harvesting honey with the big spinner and storage tank, which makes the kitchen look like a dairy. Not all that much honey but at least twice what we had last year. Am more confident of getting the bees through the winter this time.

Need to get eyes down for a new Poetry Scotland any time now. I know roughly what is going to be in it. Have a Skype reading in Chicago for Chicago Calling again to prepare, and a visit to Chester where I have to do a relatively long reading - will think that over carefully to see how I can make it really interesting. I am sure there was something else I was going to say. [End Sept 2010]

A little girl wins a prize from Edwin Morgan c 1983 - and she's my daughter! In those days Eddie was a hard working poet who did a lot of work like this - I met him at a Scottish International Open Poetry Competition event in Irvine slightly before this time, and Ian knew him earlier in Scotland and London, when life was just as hard for Eddie as it would be for any very gifted poet of a not too establishment background. It is such a wonderful story that he became so very well known in later life and was also Scotland's first Makar. Like everyone else this week we celebrate his work and we are glad we knew him. 22 Aug 2010

The cast of Frankenstein. They did a lovely show with some good reviews, some a little late in the run and about the best review after the last night. I saw it the first night and would have liked to see it also later in the run, as they developed it a bit in production. They didnt get quite as many bums in seats as they did for last year's show but life was a little bit harder in some ways at this year's fringe. In any case it was a fabulous show and a great achievement by them all.

EARLY AUGUST: The summer patch before Callander Poetry Weekend has taken a different turn. I have STUPIDLY broken my wrist in an accident in the garden, which for me counts as an accident in the home. Stuck here, unable to drive, unable to do very much work, able to bus around the country on my own a little but basically set to enjoy August quietly. We have books to print, sew and bind, the Poetry Weekend programme is almost fully arranged, and the catering will sort itself out. Much of the month will be spent making the new diehard books, with metallic bindings. I was held up from the sewing frame for ten days by my wrist, but now it is on the mend, and all day today I have been printing and sewing one and a half handed, and managing quite well. It takes me longer to print and sew and making the holes in the folded sections is now the hardest part, but I can do less other things like gardening so the schedule looks OK.
A top priority will be going to Robin's play, Stitched Up at the Edinburgh Festival. Last year's play was fantastic and this one has the same leading team of actors, though the cast of four includes some new names.

The weather is quite good and the bees are busy, though one colony is much stronger than the other. A bit more decent weather should sort them out. July 28

Exciting news from Magi McGlynn who was here a day or two ago. He's been invited to be the Bard of Glastonbury Tor this year. A better Bard there could not be. Magi is going to have a spare colony of bees from me if I get one. Speaking of bees check out the story of Pascale Petit's wonderful bee pic on the bees and gardens page

June 2010.  This story has fascinated me: the train in the Pass of Brander. Two videos:        the problem         the solution. 
I am hoping to go by train from Crianlarich to Oban later this week to get the poem out of this that is undoubtedly lurking in my brain.

and life moves on. a fabulous blue sky here in Callander on the 3rd May, and this photo comes from Stephen: an archive of when he hitch-hiked from the north of England to Chamonix in 1969, aged 18, and climbed the Matterhorn. He has climbed it more than once since, and many other peaks. He arrived home afterwards with change out of £13. During his return journey he called on me in Enfield, where I was working as a librarian by day and secretly writing by night. He then called Paul and helped pick damsons where Paul was working on his first garden and first vet job. How we all started eh?


March 26th was the day of the wedding: only two months since the dead of the worst winter I can remember -- and a year nearly to the day after Paul and Sandi's wedding in Callander. What a colourful and happy day it was.

We began in a convoy from Callander, brothers Paul and Stephen, with Sandi and Chewy, and ourselves one in each of their cars to navigate. There was much comparing of sat navs and googlemaps, and we set off in plenty of time, just behind the rush hour.

We went to the house to ascertain that all was well there, and were delighted to meet Rachel's sister from Texas, who had been travelling for two days and was none the less bright and happy. We took Star in the car, also the flower headdress and bouquet, as Rachel would be riding on the tandem. Rachel had knitted her own dress, which was therefore unique and spectacular, while Robin was dressed in a tail-coat he got from us some years ago, and the top hat we gave him last week. Rachel's flowers (for which we'd found the excellent florist) were perfection, and balanced well with Robin's hat.

Moving on we parked near Leith docks, with no trouble and some time in hand, and all piled into the dock gate cafe for steaming cuppas and bacon butties, in a gaggle round two tables. Then we walked round to the Registry Office in good time to see the main performers and the other guests arrive.


There were Robin's pals, most of whom we knew from over the years, Andrew the best man, Alex and Amy, Canavan, Tom, others too. Then there were Louise and Rich, while Liz and Martin, Ken, the other Ian and our own contingent represented the "oldies."

Tandem parked up, flowers adjusted, we proceeded through the very palatial Leith marriage rooms to the ceremony, which was photographed only by Stephen, who had to be designated official photographer. The signing of the registers was open to anyone to photograph.

We were not hustled out of the rooms but were able to circulate there for some time, with lots of photography, hugging and celebration, and a group photo and videos taken by Stephen. Then we moved off to the house, the newly weds on the tandem, a few on bikes, others in taxis and cars.

The house coped very well with the party, thanks largely to Rachel's natural ability as a hostess and cook, Ian M's experience of party catering and impressive organization, and a little input from myself. The handsome wedding cake, chocolate by request, and covered in white chocolate bay leaves, made by Louise, took pride of place in a huge spread of food from various countries Robin and Rachel have been in (and some they have not): tacos from Texas, peroggies from Poland, cheese from France,  Baklavas from Greece, etc. also stews and dips, salads and fruit salad. Drinks of all kinds, including champagne, good coffee, and a keg of beer. It was great fun, and there was enough space, including the garden (forecast rain never came to much). The whole event repaid its planning down to detail.

At three o'clock the Evans "oldies" contingent moved on, for our parking  meter time was used up. We all went back to Callander, including Liz and Martin (who took a later train back to Edinburgh where they were staying). We reckoned the party would continue to swing with the young people for quite some time. Canavan's classic shot of "Robin after the wedding" was the first picture we saw.

Next morning Paul and Sandi had to go home, but Stephen and Chewy went up Ben Ledi and stayed for dinner with friends of ours here.

Over the weekend we had the use of the flat upstairs which always makes for a special occasion. Have just about cleared up my kitchen and the rooms, and on Tuesday I go to look after Star in Edinburgh for a few days while Robin and Rachel have a short holiday in the north of Scotland on their own. Meanwhile the shop has got busy, the weather has improved, the clocks have gone forward and the long hard winter is at an end. Celebrations indeed.

Page in progress while I try to latch pictures and links to pictures in. That's the end of the main account, but for the interest of kind friends who advised me on what to wear, I add one or two extra pics here to show how well it worked out. I was asked to remove my hat in group pictures to allow others to be seen behind my head!

- -

                  >>>   END OF 2010 BLOGTHOLOGY   <<<




This week: (January 18th) Rachel and Star heard that their visas were approved. Star and Rachel went to Warsaw at the end of November, thinking the application would be simple and they would be back before Christmas. When they weren't, Robin took unpaid leave from his work in Edinburgh and joined them.  The wait was nearly two months and included the Christmas/New Year holidays. It has felt like a worrying eternity to us. 

We are very grateful to family members and friends who supported Rachel and Robin during this difficult time, by writing letters and references (Stephen Evans, Eric Wishart, Ken Johnson) and general support (Louise Johnson, Joy Hendry, and Grandad Robert King). Also to my own friends, especially Eileen Carney Hulme and Jean Thewlis (others too), who helped to keep me sane.

These photos were put up when Rachel and Star first arrived in Warsaw. After these photos, they lost their camera.

[Above: Rachel's photo of Star feeding the pigeons in Warsaw Old Town, and a reflection of Rachel looking very like herself, in a window. Come back both, safe and soon! Nov 30th ] 

Connections: the treasure found in Warwickshire from the misnamed Dark Ages, and the 1050 Psalter going on display in Edinburgh University Library. The decorative  features can be seen at a glance to be in the same tradition, a tradition we must surely reclaim from history's disgraceful neglect.

It is the very bewitching hour of eight. / This is the moment when my new day begins. / I love to hear the pretty clock striking eight. (Stevie Smith)

Here is my contribution to the 1000 verses renga currently in process (Oct/Nov 09) :

    leaf fall  /  colour concentrated  /  in a short day

Lower down:   parties -- Doune Castle  -- Gerald and Christine  --  Peak District  --  bee planning  --  steampunk --  MacGregor's Barn

The Fly in the Loaf, central Liverpool                                      Edenfield, Lancs

An October visit to Sally James' and to attend the PK gathering and gig in Liverpool. A lovely drive, through autumn crisp weather south, Turneresque squalls, rainbows and yellow sunshine north. A good meeting of many old friends and  several never before met, and a great natter about all things poetry and more, with Sally J with whom I stayed overnight. Read from and distributed quite a heap of The Bees books. And much motorway navigating, which would be impossible these days without the huge and many roadsigns, especially near Manchester, as the M66, M61, M60, M62 weave intricately round one another.
Jazz is making a film of the occasion. It wasnt the group that included Grasshopper (see below). Meanwhile here are Lesley, Jim and Jazz reading at the Albert Dock, Sunday. Stuart's photo.


Margaret Griffiths, or Grasshopper, internet poet, died recently in Bournemouth alone and unknown, except by a huge community of internet poets. She was 61 or 62. She was one of my first internet poetry friends, on the Pennine Poets, the Works, and the ezine Worm. But I hadnt been in touch with her lately, I never saw a picture of her and I dont think I have ever seen her. David Anthony is negotiating to get a book of her poems published. Here is her obituary from a local paper.
My last information was that nobody knew who her relatives were. I actually have Griffiths family connections, but it iis a very common name in Wales.

Surrey trip

How to travel? If I was going to south of London I chose wrong, for I hit a filthy day on the motorways with rain, surface water, spray, gusts, congestion and lorries. but I also combined it with a trip to Paul and Sandi at Herefordshire, where they live in even quieter country surroundings than us. When you live in Scotland you tend to forget that England has some very deep country too.

Sandi and I then progressed to London by train through the Oxford English belt, through the Malverns, Cotswolds, Oxford, and Reading, all merely glimpsed from the train windows - when you travel through a place you do not visit it. Ordinary remarks by local people on the most mundane topics in perfect English -the clear consonants and open vowels in this area never fail to astonish me.

In London we hastened to Stephen's flat where Chewy, Liz Collins and the Prices were gathered, and then to Leatherhead - of early memories, but we did not go down the main street I remembered, but the crematorium and a large hotel at Stoke d'Abernon, also remembered but seen quite differently. Not being in my own transport I could not follow the roadsign to Cobham to find the remnants of my infant surroundings. The funeral passed off well with a good reunion of Evans and Thomas cousins, and the Thomases meeting the Prices. Evans, Thomas and Price, all classic Welsh names, but Flo was a Reid from Bournemouth before her sojourn in Jamaica.

Returned fairly late by train to Paul's, proceeding on next morning through much better weather and the west of the country to Glasgow and home again, carrying an offering of Victoria and Worcestershire Drupe plums, huge cooking apples also named, and the promise of a Stirling Castle Apple tree to be obtained from their friend the apple budding mogul.



A day in the country, not without action. Hubby was awake very early which got me up early and looking for some papers in the house. The house is still all upside down after moving rooms round for Robin and Rachel, and the kitchen not really recovered from the mayhem either yet, but in three weeks until the Poetry Weekend I can make it all work. Yesterday I wrote out the programme for the Poetry Weekend, and loaded it here when I discovered Colin had just started a two-week vacation. During this programme build we decided to go for an idea we have had for a while - a poetry boat on the Loch. Checking things out we fixed our Sunday Sailing very easily and simply, with a phone call and a quick run down to the Trossachs Pier.

The phone rang and Elizabeth Burns said she and her family were on ther way to Callander. I had time to cut the grass and then make a big plate of sandwiches before they arrived. Our picnic was part in the shop because of drizzle and part in the garden. Then Magi McGlynn materiliased and sang to them. We all had a great visit. Lizzie and Alan's children are now in their teens. When we last saw the children they were very small.

The bees became very excited about something this afternoon, with great buzzing. I wonder if they have discovered the heather?  [12 August]






The last two weeks a whirl of activity, meant to be a quiet time while the auctions have their trade holidays.  Including the following not entirely routine events:

* Pond lining replaced. A toad looked out as we tidied up afterwards and said plain as plain "Have you finished? What the hell is going on?!"

* Routine established with Robin, Rachel and Star staying with us. Everyone happy.

* Negotiations for Robin and Rachel's rented flat in Edinburgh and placing of orders for posters and flyers. Purchase of large quantitiy of blu-tak.

 * Sally attends probably the last large Knight family gathering, the funeral at Oundle.  Drives to Buxton, stays with Liz & Martin, they drive to Oundle Thus missing both Buxton and Polyverse festivals though in area of each.

* Sally finds kind friendly dentists (arent they young) who extract two teeth that have been increasingly giving her gip. Or gyp. whatever that is.

* Change of diehard Windfall titles to Fanfare. Complete another one, edit another, and make more copies of two existing ones. An ad hoc change because of duplication of Windfall name. All windfalls to be Fanfares in future. Bibliographers  please note.

*Two Poetry Scotland  issues to printer. Much driving across country. Did you know that T in the Park sends an international charity to pick up the tents and other items remaining in the fields.

All of which sounds disconnected, leading to a crazy rush with the Highland Games, bee disease gloom in the area, very variable weather, shop also variable but thriving, but with additional help from the young people who have allowed us a day or two out.

Will write separately of the bee disease gloom as it is important to bee people.

[28 July] 

More family saga : Photos

Rachel's picture of Paul's party, but first one of myself and my new eleven year old granddaughter Star. We're at Stronalachar, with Loch Katrine behind us. We're very happy because Robin and Rachel have decided to get married. Stronny is near Inversnaid, at the deserted north end of Loch Katrine, not far from Inversnaid from where twenty eight carthorses, requisitioned from local villages, hauled the paddle steamer Waverley in two halves to be put into service on Loch Katrine. A photo of the horses performing this feat was destroyed, hoewever there is a photo of a pair from Doune and their groom on return to their village.
Loch Katrine is the main reservoir for Glasgow and the loch shore road belongs to the Water company. The public road is from Aberfoyle through Kinlochard.



 I like the lines in Rachel's pic of family members under the awning outside the vet. hospital.  Left to right: Ian, Stephen (partly obscured), Sandi & Paul, Sally, Twiz and Uncle Evan.  This was early on, before Louise and Rich arrived.
I described our road journey on the start here blog page.
photos: Rachel Leslie


Adventures at home

Three younger members of my family are staying with us temporarily. (In English parlance, that would be living with us temporarily.) They have a play on the Fringe in August  http://www.brokenholmes.co.uk/ and after that things are slightly in the air. We all get along very well all being of bookish and writerly leanings, but we are trying to give them a bit of privacy too. It's not difficult when you have a large outdoor living space in the warm weather.

Will they be going to San Francisco? I am getting a passport, having let the old one lapse, just in case. Hubby won't travel, but I can go & I bet I have some poetry friends in the Bay Area too.

Our catering has changed a bit. We seem to be doing breakfast in two sittings, us then them. Dinner can be a meal downstairs, cooked by either R &R or myself, or a help yourself arrangement, or a picnic in groups or together. Plenty of cheese, cheap salads, garden salads, & farm eggs (my main extravagance in the food line). Bread (we like it slightly harder than new baked and we get it cheap). We have quantities of stored rice. Fruit: raspberries in the garden just ready, and we found the blaeberries ready early this year and made two pots of jam, which are going on breakfast toast. I dont usually make toast so the smell of morning toast is new, and reminiscent, to me.

I've decided to make jam in smaller quantities, and have it used as soon as possible. Hubby doesnt eat jam so I am glad to have some jam eaters. Old jam is really boring and I'm not storing it indefinitely any more. We can also do something about the overstuffed freezer so all in all the visit is doing us good.

Another thing that's happened is I am sharing my computer with them, and they are both highly literate people who like to use the computer a lot.  (Star has another computer not linked to the internet.) I am still checking facebook and email and twitter at least twice a day but not responding so rapidly in between morning and night as I sometimes have done. Dont worry I will still get the messages you send within hours. 

Having moved rooms round to make the best of the household space, I am slightly at a loss finding things, such as clothes upstairs, or papers in the office, which has become an emergency storage area. I am a bit behind with my editing and realise it is already July, so if I want an August PS I will have to look sharp, and put all this family excitement in its place. But my kids have been away such a lot of the time, and when you look back to when you actually brought them up, sent them to school etc as a time of great struggle (is that just me) it is wonderful to see them well and happy, and at the beginning of their main contributions to the world. [4 July]

Big Tree

Pauline (seen in the woodland pic on home page) sent me this pic of myself under the ancient chestnut tree - the "antler tree" on Inchmaholme.

A Party in my Garden

Fiona who has the upstairs flat is home from Houston, Texas for a couple of weeks. Georgina (her sister) and I have had the stairwell decorated just in advance of their visit, and yesterday Fiona asked me if they could use the garden for a barbecue for her husband's birthday. Of course they could, we said.

Four related families with children, and grandparents (including mutual exes) gathered in the early evening. I had cleared up the patio area and the old stone sink, which with a metal grid tray makes an excellent barbecue base. In a very short time there were tables laid, food assembled, a large circular canvas gazebo erected and a brazier filled with logs and lit. Food cooking followed.

I joined the party for an hour or so & then left them to their family fun. There is still a huge lot of noise from happy adults and tired children, three hours later. Apart from enjoying the chat and food with people I knew, I picked up the usual vibes and tips for entertaining, the uses of the space in the garden. It was impromtu (but not all that improptu as some of them travelled for it), happy (but now I hear overtired children's cries), effective (but very cheap in the food line: merely barbecued meats on burgers, plain salad, a birthday cake and I saw some strawberries), but it had style, and it had my garden. I hope there'll be a photograph.

And as part of the give and take in this neighbourly friendship, I've been offered the flat for the Poetry Weekend again.  Woot, as the young people say.
[19 June]



Something that happened this week: a Strange Dinner

I have a rule not to report things negatively and in this case I am fascinated by what went wrong, and it didnt all go wrong by any means, so I'm not identifying the occasion, and quite likely I won't index it from the home page.

It was a group dinner set for early in the evening in a building I didnt know. Nor, apparently, did the cooks. When I arrived I started helping with the tables, as you do when they are not set out.  Someone had brought tablecloths and there was masses of cutlery, so at first all seemed well. I went into the kitchen to see if they wanted a hand, and it was immediately obvious that they certainly did. The floor space was small and square surrounded by cutlery and crockery drawers, sink, dishwasher and a large hot stove, on which sat three large pans of soup.  On another surface were piles of carefully prepared stuffed chicken portions, not yet cooked, and on another, unopened bags of potatoes.

There were three people with In Charge looks, almost filling the space, and one said, We need to tip this soup into the soup containers. So I helped do that. Then we put a large pot on full of hot water for the potatoes, and I started cutting them up. Some cooked chicken was taken out of the oven on a huge tray and manhandled across to a surface that had to be decluttered. The sink had to be decluttered, the soup pans washed and I did that. We finished the potatoes. What else? I said. Thank you, we dont need any more help, they said. Did somebody mention carrots? Oh, they're done, ready to cook.

So I fled back to the hall, and I'm glad I did, or I might have been implicated in the two hour wait for the meal. I dont think I could have helped the situation in the kitchen because they didnt know they needed help, they already had a general and they were sticking with him, he could manage.

The evening was skilfully handled by the host, who brought the entertainment forward before the meal, and the band, who played cheering and comfortable old jazz and old pop music throughout. People were comfortably seated in small friendly groups, and the food when it came was exquisite. Brilliant soup. Half an hour, then brilliant main courses, served so slowly that some had finished eating before others were served, and there was nothing for it but to eat when the food arrived. There were also a roast meat choice and a vegetarian choice, of which I'd seen no sign in the kitchen.

I was sitting beside somebody I had long wanted a good conversation with, but we hadnt bargained on four and a half hours. Another wait and then the puddings, two choices which looked so similar that no one could tell which of the choices they had. Finally, cheese biscuits and grapes were brought round. Hardly anyone touched  these, but very good coffee as midnight approached was extremely welcome.

Clearing up began and I took a hand, as did many people. In the kitchen you couldnt move for plates, cups and glasses. I found a teatowel and dried and put things away, but when I needed a dry tea towel, there werent any more. Five soaking tea towels were screwed up in a corner, which would have dried quickly on the stove. I spread them out to dry.  I did some more putting away, manically praising the food, and left when the end was in sight. Everyone had remained jolly and avoided fretfulness, and apart from the time inconvenience it was an excellent night.

I guess these cooks could present wonderful dinners for six or ten at home, and they had catered the food very well, but they had completely failed to plan for the space they were in  - which could have been improved for instance by some precooking or the placing of extra tables for serving. They had clearly no idea how to cook and serve for sixty or seventy people. I could have shopped at the nearby supermarket, then cooked and served a meal single handed in the time we were waiting. But it would have been a simpler meal.



Something that happened this week: Doune Castle visit

Went round Doune Castle with the Castle writers' group. I have passed Doune Castle almost daily for the last ten years (above right, view from road bridge), so it was great to fill in the final details today. Everyone said, Oh we thought Doune Castle was a ruin, but it's far from a ruin, just gaunt looking from outside. And what a marvellous position. Different from Stirling, much more rural and of course much smaller but still a massive castle, with amazing great hall and kitchens and other rooms.

We went round with new audiotapes recorded by one of the Monty Python actors, which gave rise to my first poem, and I separated myself from the group for long enough to write something in the visitor's cottage, where a room had been made available for us - though any visitor could have used it. Then we walked round the grassy grounds beside the fast flowing River Teith, its floodwater having passed through Callander ten miles upriver, I wonder how long ago. Half an hour? A few other tourists, all looking happy, were wandering round this unusual place.
Afterwards we were all invited to lunch at Broon fae Doune's house. A brilliant outing. Poems on Stirling Castle page. Its the same project though I know it's kind of the wrong castle.

8 May 09



New poem - Fourteen-liner which is not a sonnet

(Now it 's near finished it is more like a sonnet than it was.)

I am writing this on request for an occasion, which will eventually be blogged on this page. It is about right but unfinished, and I am a bit short of time. I am starring the lines I think need revision, and giving them marks for how badly they need revising- the more stars, the worse the line is. The words mentioned, may not do. I know the argument and approach and length of the poem are about right.  Here's the poem as it stands so far (and I would not take suggestions amiss):

Some changes added with thanks for ideas. Still not quite set. I think it's about there now, but I keep adding  for to the thirteenth line and then taking it away again, like Oscar's comma. Have thrown the music out. Helpful comments came from Maureen, Bob, Sherry, Barbara, Mike, and Wendy.  Thanks also to Eileen whose computer wouldnt work when she tried to comment, but she praises the result.

I can now give the subtext of this: it's for Paul and Sandi, who were married quietly at Callander today (24 March), and who requested a poem. Watch for the blog .

Travelling together
                              for Paul and Sandi

How far can we travel together?
As far as another country, another world                     
or further into where we are,                                  
weekends at work, mornings at home,
trails through woodland already known?                    
Familiar trees flame with new light and shadow.
Tarns that were surly are deep cornflower blue.
Side by side we walk in our shifting view
through memory and time, our inner landscapes,
where high gates and dry rivers, once fierce,
miniaturise themselves in the distance.                             
Close here in the weather of warm celebration         
our words take heart, no longer question                  
how far we can travel together.


                 Sally Evans  Finished on the 12th March.

Here's the old draft.

Title needed

How far can we travel together?
As far as another country, another world
or is it further into this one,                                              ** or is it....
weekends at work, mornings at home,
rides through a woodland already known?                      * rides?
Familiar trees flame with new light and shadow.
Tarns that were surly are now deep cornflower blue,
as we walk side by side in our shifting view
through memory and time, those shining landscapes,
where high gates and dry rivers, once fierce,
miniaturise themselves in the distance
and some sort of music plays,                                        * * some sort of? plays?
Tumbled words echo and fade to silence.                       * ** tumbled,echo, fade
How far can we travel together?

                 Sally Evans (draft 8 March)


   female Goosander as seen on River Teith

 One of the great small press personalities, Gerald England, currently moving from his well known address at Werneth Avenue, Hyde, into a retirement apartment, contacted me to ask if I knew of a bookseller in his area who would buy a large batch of his books. I  suggested calling in myself, as I have family not too far away, and Gerald was pleased, knowing I would appreciate his specialist small press stuff. Hence my trip to the Peak district this week.

Softer fells than Scotland's, often barer, lined with stone,

felted with grass, the northern country where I feel at home,
the Peaks, the Lakes, the Dales. A cloud's shadow moves.

I set off to Edinburgh to meet Robin, who was on his way to Leicester, with bicycle camping clobber. We went by Galashiels to Carlisle, then onto the M6 and south of Manchester for Buxton. The journey was uneventful, not busy except around four o'clock, when I got embroiled in a row of large and aggressive lorries. Robin and I had missed my sister Liz' recent party and had not visited her house before. I was one house behind. They had bought a house in Buxton while working in Manchester, and when she talked about  "the other house" I thought she meant Manchester and didnt realise they had moved twice in Buxton itself. Anyway they were newly settled in a convenient semi with front and back gardens and a good view, woods and a cave round the back of the next street. We had a happy evening with Liz & Martin and their grand-daughter, and in the morning I inspected their garden.

Robin took out his bike bits from the car to prepare for his "expedition to the source of the Macclesfield Canal", found he had a puncture, tried to repair it, went  to the bike shop in Buxton, got Martin and himself oily, and obliged me to phone Gerald to say I'd be late.  Martin persuaded Robin that the Matlock canal linked more quickly to Leicester. I left him about ready for his adventure and drove off to Hyde. There looked a good route across the moors  but Martin advised the motorway, so back I went to Hazel Grove where I made the classic mistake of crossing the road to a petrol station, filling up, and then setting off back the way I had just come.

I had last seen Gerald and Christine at Callander at the 2005 weekend. They seemed well, and are looking forward to their new home. It was great to relax and catch up with them a bit, before piling all the books into the car (on top of rejected bike-gear, covered with a packing sheet). Abstruse poetry, disestablishment poetry, underground or minority interest American books, and some more standard stuff too. It was a good visit, and good business. We talked about photographs. Gerald now concentrates on his photo websites -  Hyde Daily Photo is the main one - and I made one more last resolution to get to grips with my camera.

Then travelling alone, I headed for Leeds and the A1M, which was closed before Scotch Corner, so I went round by Teesside, past signs to Hutton Rudby, Bishopton, Sadberge, then on an empty A1 after Darlington, through to Newcastle past the splendidly sited Angel of the North - its great situation will not be bettered in Kent or Wales. Over the dark, high moor road A68, Belsay, Rochester, Otterburn, Byrness and Carter Bar, down  to Dalkeith and the bypass, & back up the river to Stirling then Callander.  Travelling through and past places, past your friends houses, places you lived, knew, I have always found exhilarating. Travelling south with Robin, that was good for a catch-up chat. Home, another event started brewing with a phone call, but it is still a secret.  [28 February]

Planning ahead

A lot of life is about planning ahead, and it's been that sort of week. Various activities including a garden makeover, among the beautiful spring ground flowers, snowdrops, aconites, irises and crocuses. I am hacking away at bushes and re-planting bushes and trees, in an attempt to get a bee area ready. First time I've tried to scan a sketch in: let's see what happens.


 This plan will need to be completely changed, because the bee doors cannot be overlooked: the bees must be able to come and go from the hive without interference.

 Well there's obviously a lot to learn here. At the critical size it was fabulous, then bringing it down to fit the page it lost all its clarity. I had to select just part of the sketch to make it readable. You lost the crags with trees and heather beyond, and more of the sides and the access. It was fun trying this technique, but I think I'd need to draw with a very fine pen to make it work.

Ian has been having a bookbindathon. As  production, it is a very good response to the financial situation.  Shop business seems  relatively unscathed so far, but this is normally a quiet time.  We have seen Robin who has a play going on in this year's Fringe. He is travelling to Manchester with me next week. I'm going to my sister's and to call on Gerald England among other things. For a day or two. And Robin will continue by bicycle to Leicester to work there for a few months. I always enjoy a drive with Robin, as it gives us a good chance to talk and catch up. I am stuck at nearly-ready stage with the new PS. It's  a situation which happens with many issues, but I hope to have it finished before I head south. [22 Feb]

Goosanders and Bees

The goosander is still on the river. There are some great pictures of them on Google, including some of these brown-headed female birds carrying chicks on their back. You'll be hearing more from me about bees - I have started the local beekeepers' course and we are already prospecting the garden for the best sites for a couple of hives. And starting a box of honey jars and lids. Maybe the bees will belong on the garden page as things move on - and of course they will be a routine reality rather than a romantic notion. It has been a cold icy month, one casualty a goldfish though I have been trying to de-ice the ponds. I am behind with magazine work, though things are reasonably on course. I wonder if I will ever get my camera going? [12 February]

Tomorrow one of us has to go to Edinburgh, Friday I go to the Castle, and Robin is coming over for the weekend. Winter is slowly giving up...too slowly. The garden is a sheet of ice with snowdrops and aconites and frozen ponds.

Cold snap, the Great Indoors and Steampunk

Life is still bitty, but unified by the cold weather and the indoor pleasure of having decided to cancel a risky long drive. So I've been talking on facebook about both serious and frivolous topics, feeding the birds, defrosting something for supper, all these mainly survival processes while on and off my big job compiling the magazine downstairs. Meanwhile, we didn't make it south to Sally James' or to Marion's family party. Too much risk from snow and ice, plus the surprisingly novel factor that authories in England are running out of road salt.

Steampunk is a mix of high and low technology that sometimes works.  This is steampunk. And so is this - Robin's computer.  He replies that he cannot himself say it is steampunk, someone else has to. So I'll say it is.  I found him two old style typewriters for this project, which involved bribing auctioneers - they dont deal in them as they don't command a fiver. Claire Askew is the only person I know who collects them.

Steampunk seems to be a mixture of sentimentality for the industrial revolution (hence steam), and science fiction gadgetry. It has a fashion branch, a fiction branch, and a gadgets branch. Here's another site that rounds up a lot of steampunk gadget pictures and other stuff.

I wonder...would the term stretch to our singing deer?  -- No, I'm told, in a feedback, unless I gave it a top hat and aviation goggles and made it sing Vaudeville numbers.


We went to Edinburgh University's Angus Calder memorial event, which was more for historians than poets, and learnt more about Angus' involvement with the Mass Observation archive which is now at Sussex University. No wonder Angus liked the leaflet we gave him on wartime lettuce growing. [7 February]

McGregor's Barn, near Inversnaid.
Our party looked very similar to this one shown on Ledard Farm's website.

February. The Ledard party is over, all my tablecloths have washed clean, all my cutlery is counted back, and all that is missing are about three glasses. It was worth that for what I learnt, and the fun we had (an expression I can use without the usual wry satire). I ended up with some of Fran's forks, Alison has my potato mashers and I have Alison's umbrella. It is snowing like the blazes and my promised trip to England with Robin is in jeopardy. I have just sent a list of suggestions for the Makar launch to the Provost's PA. That's January dealt with. Oh, and a full MS of mine was prepared and despatched, in the midst of the catering shenangans last week.

There is now the little matter of the Poetry Scotland issues and the main book I have promised to publish this spring. I am taking the small fire down from the bedroom to the office so I can type in comfort, if necessary overnight, and I think these projects will now take precedence.

Last night I went to the beekeepers' talk in Callander, and it was full of people from Falkirk to Auchterarder, including several interested people from Callander itself. The club does talks in different towns each year.  The only slight problem is that August and September are busy for beekeeping, and that's when I do the Poetry Weekend.

But more than anything it 's been a month of chill and hardiness. My bed is warm, my clothes are warm, but there it ends. Huge fuel bills mean people are paying through the teeth to get the bare chill off the place, and it makes us even more aware of the changing year.

Oh why not, here's my Reply to the Toast to the Lasses. A good speech (well, string of jokes) can't be re-used: it dates. There you go folks, and no analysis.


A pleasure to reply to the Toast - I'd say it was an honour only I volunteered..especially as I come from the north of England where we do say lasses. I can pretend I didnt understand any of it but of course I did, and very complimentary it was - or did I understand?
Now its the lasses' turn, and great to have some men actually listening..if they are listening. In this romantic hall with lovely audience.. last time I spoke in the country, a sheep dog and two sheep got in the back of the hall, and made quite a lot of noise which could have been very distracting for the audience - only they WERE the audience...

When I first came here I couldnt pronounce Burns - I said BUUNS, and people would go Buns? Where are the elephants?

Another word I couldnt pronounce was Mearns, when I read the great Scottish prose writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon who wrote about the Mearns.. Burns and Mearns actually rhyme in English, like this: BUUNS, MUUNS. Let's hear how you pronounce them...now try the English way...

Some of the sheep have got out..
When I drove up to Aberdeenshire last week, I called at the new Grassic Gibbon centre and a wee boy in front of me was crying because there werent any monkeys.
And whats all this about us only gossiping with each other...I talk to men all the time. Some of them are very interesting people.
Like the old man in Callander I was talking to the other day, who was practising the Gaelic he had learnt as a child and then forgotten. Isnt that terrible?.So I said, Why are you learning Gaelic again now, and he said They speak Gaelic in Heaven...so I sadi OK, but what if you dont get into heaven, I've never heard of anyone from round Callander getting in there lately, man or woman... he said, Well, if I do go to hell, I'll get by with my English.
There should be some sort of moral exhortation in a speech like this so I asked my facebook friend in Canada and she said, what about Live each day as if your last. I do try to live each day as if my last, which is why I can never find any clean clothes, however far back I look in the wardrobe. Who wants to do laundry on the last day of their life?
But then I thought, you can't just have any old quotation, it has to come from Burns, so I took down my Burns and there it was:
I  gar ye, syn ye niver asked,
live ilka day as though yer last,
except on days you can't be bothered.
We thank you kindly..

January 25

Two Burns Suppers down and one to go. Burns Suppers are largely events for older people and we must have hit the critical age. I've been to two, one without hubby, to the local literary society, 100 people in a big hotel, Billy Kay speaking, who is a high profile expert on the Scots language and Burns (I say this for the international audience, Scots know it), with interesting additional speakers and very good singing.  The second, an extremely pleasant smart foody private one , with amusing talk and speeches, great conversation, and a new book by the hostess.

The third has not happened yet, but has taken up much time, as I am helping to organise it, which is really more work than doing the whole thing myself. I could not have done that this year as I have been picking up the know-how right, left and centre. I am thinking of running one for Poetry Scotland next year.

The one we are running will be crowded. We are doing our own cooking and the most experienced caterer is out of the game through a family bereavement.  There arent enough water jugs, milk jugs or coffee cups as far as I can see. We are doing our own serving and there aint going to be room to swing a cat. We are out in the wilds and the parking is set to be a nightmare, as is the travel if it snows. There is a senior government Minister doing the Toast to Scotland.

I am replying to the Toast to the Lasses. The gentleman giving the toast has popped his script round to me so I can work my speech round it, and I have done this and have a good, funny patter at the ready, making use of my English pronunciation in the jokes.  Might as well tackle the accent head on.

Dress: what you like. Lasses: no evening dresses -- and you might end up handing plates, or sozzled (if not driving). Kilt for the men, if you have one, but by no means essential - lots of Scotsmen don't wear 'em.  Food: one course has to be haggis, mashed tatties and neeps (swede if you're English). Beyond that you're on your own. Speeches must be jokey and nobody cares if they are old, old jokes. Rabbie is king for the night. Scots is king.

Altogether the Burns season this year has been busier socially than Christmas for us. Robin comes back from America as well this week, I do believe. Homecoming! 250th Anniversary Burns Night! It's all upon us.

2009 kick-starts


We were thrown in at the deep end by the fire in the neighbouring building, middle of Friday night,  which three fire engines, police and ambulances attended, and in which sadly one of our neighbours died. The incident lasted for hours what with smoke and investigations, and we did not know about the death until the next day, as it was thought the three people who were taken to hospital by ambulance were going to recover.

Our order from Viking, who have always supplied our stationery, failed to arrive on the stated day, and we wanted to go out to see our printer across Fife, so we phoned Viking and discovered they have a new carrier in Scotland. Being on the main route we have always had delivery at lunch time the day after ordering, even though Scotland is not promised next day delivery.  But the new carrier hasnt got his routes set yet.  All was settled by telephone, and if this sounds dull, believe you me, I preferred it to a fire next door.

So we went out, saw the folks, saw the printers, crossed the new bridge (see video) twice. The next day I had a meeting with the Provost of Stirling and some others.  Robert Ritchie (from Stirling Writers Group) and I had a coffee and sandwich and a good gossip together afterwards, which was as well because I cannot discuss it with anyone else, the subject of the meeting being not yet released.  Suffice it to say, the morning was not lacking in interest and satisfaction.  Ian and I did the year's first auction in the evening and it was a thin one. We hope it will not prove too difficult to get books over this hard-driving year.

And we have had the year's first cheerful, welcome customers. Fred Woodward came by, with a new enthusiasm for Burns' science and Burns' Kilmarnock connections. I tried to persuade him to come to this year's Poetry Weekend (and he will, if he can) so my plots in that direction are germinating too. The year's first books and review copies have  turned up in the post, this week's clutch all blue and grey -- is that the in colour? I finished the week with a drive down to Stirling to see about fixing the chip on my windscreen, and booked an MOT for next week. So, all in all, a week with a bit of everything. Except for writing? I must have done some -- there was the Howway Teesside poem which is to appear on the Teesside writers' site quite soon.

And do plots germinate? Of course not.

They hatch!      [8 January]


a curly set of numbers

We cannot believe nine years have gone since the millennium, nearly a whole decade and what has it meant? Perhaps different things for different groups. Personally for us it has meant consolidation of our home and shop in Callander, where we arrived in February 2000 after several months' planning and a dramatic move described on the Scottish Book Trust Days Like These project  here.
(I changed my brothers' names.)  For me it has meant much more poetry written and published, three more books, the continuation of Poetry Scotland, and the Callander Poetry Weekends. I've developed websites, read at StAnza, and travelled round Scotland and to Newcastle  and London to poetry events.

For everyone, I think, it's meant awareness of terrorism, the internet explosion from google maps to Wikipedia, and better understanding among ordinary people of issues like race and gays. At the same time I have observed policital pressure on car drivers, and a growing persecution of those convicted of crimes by the victims or their families, fed by the interactive media. I dont think that's putting it too strongly. Television has apparently got worse (we are among many who now do not have it), quality newspapers  have shrunk to sad looking tabloids and the news websites are doing massive trade.

People have taken to buying and selling almost anything on Ebay and elsewhere on the internet as a hobby. In recent months the entire banking system has teetered (if not collapsed), house prices have fallen from their ridiculous highs, debt has been called in and retail stores are suffering badly.  The international world, briefly euphorised by Obmana's ground breaking election, has proved itself at the  mercy of rotten old human nature already with the Christmas aggression on Gaza.

How are we placed? We have a bookstore, a garden, a bookbindery and we have three years to go on our modest mortgage. We are used to living economically.  As book buyers and auction wallahs we have learnt to shop very efficiently.  We have stood out against selling on the net so far, preferring people to come and see and choose quality books from us, but I am thinking I might possibly open a fun shop on this site later on this year, where I might sell poetry books, garden seeds, fabric - and perhaps deliver things in Scotland  -- I did say fun.  It could be a useful toe in the water in case the high street collapses around us. (It would also be another reminder to people that we are here.) It will be interesting, and relevant, also to see whether the Post Office will put its prices up in the aftermath of the financial upheaval. Which could get worse.

Another small but important thing that affects us, is that my partner's parents have been lucky with excellent home care in their old age, taking a potentially great strain away from us. Postcode lottery perhaps. [1 January 2009]



I have more or less wrapped up 2008 in the Blogthology page, but there are still a couple of weeks of it left - one week till the shortest day, which will be greeted with relief rather than religion. Traditionally we try to cheer ourselves up by our winter festivals and it is certainly great to know the spring will come again - a more pertinent question than Hume's How do we know the sun will rise tomorrow? which of course was not a question about the sun but about knowledge. I can't anticipate 2009 here but could maybe chat a little about this midwinter pivot. I'm going out to see the plants and the birds before it gets too dark. [16 December]

  Nora the cat plays an encore   

Christmas comes and one or two niggles get straightened. The electricity bills come and they are nothing like as bad as feared.  The shop is quiet but it would have been anyway, this time of year.  We go to John and Nancy's lovely Plean Castle for a sightly jumpy Stirling Writers event.  We shop, successfully, for the annual hole-up: cheeses, yoghurts, fruit and salads.  Many tinned foods have doubled in price, including cat food, beans and the staple tinned tomatoes.  So has rice, but we stock-piled rice last month. 

We attend Colin Mather's funeral in Perth on Christmas Eve, and I read two poems, The Lake Isle of Innisfree and Tennyson's The Brook. Ian says I do well. Even I can see that my reading helps raise the humanist funeral out of its bleakness. How do I change back to the required past tense?

Christmas Day was very nice. We went to good friends in Stirling for lunch and had exciting food and companionable talk. And it's still Christmas Day, so I suppose I need present tense again. [25 December]


My old blogs will be on line until February 2009 at my former site: groups.msn.com/desktopsallye  or see Blogthologies page.